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Wetlands is a very important element in Australia's vast landscape. It is the source of food, water, home and spirit for the Aboriginal Australian.

This project is located at Ubirr, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. The brief asked for a Wetlands Learning and Research Centre with a central gathering/learning space and cooking facilities, shared accommodation and cleaning facilities intended for short-stay groups of visitors like students up to 48 persons.

The site is of cultural significant to the Aboriginal Australian, with a rich history of more than 40,000 years. Critically responding to the tropical climate of the site, which gets seasonal flooding and cyclone-prone area, the proposed design is a series of different structures for different programmes, scattered around strategic locations within the greater site. This allows for different site experience for different purposes.

The tropical climate enables a different approach compared to colder regions, as the temperature does not change radically over a year. This allows the design to embrace the nature and let the users live with bare necessities. The structures are of lightweight construction, with generous veranda to shield the users from the hot sun which presents all year round, as well as maximizing ventilation through passive design.

The main space is elevated from ground level to allow for cross ventilation, as well as provide a taller location to observe the surrounding environments. The building is not entirely enclosed, with sliding timber screens acting as space divider so that when closed, the interior space still maintains the visual and sensual connection with outside.

The very limited material palette consists of timber, steel, corrugated metal and translucent polycarbonate. These material complements with the colour and texture of the site, with the steel painted in black referencing to the local practice of seasonal burning which leaves the tree trunk black. Extensive uses of permeable elements such as louvres (both timber and glass) and perforated sheet materials allows for effective ventilation yet keeps the insects away.

Related project: Coorong Wetlands Learning & Research Centre

2012